Rhumb Lines April 2018 Issue

Staying Safe in the Boatyard

My pal Jimmy’s inflatable dinghy sprung a leak. It was a simple repair. He hoisted the boat aboard, put a wire wheel on his cordless drill and began scuffing the surface in preparation for gluing. Seconds later, a two-inch strand of wire had pierced his cornea and he was on the way to the Northern District Hospital in Luganville, Vanuatu. After battling infection for several weeks and follow up treatment in Australia, he got most of his sight back.

“It was just a second,” he said, explaining why he didn’t wear goggles that would have prevented the accident.

Photo by Darrell Nicholson

Practical Sailor tested respirators in September 2017

The hazards boaters are exposed to each spring are many. One of the biggest risks is falling. Boats are propped up on jackstands, requiring a ladder to access. These ladders aren’t always stable, or secured at the top. And the climbers aren’t always as careful as they should be. Decks are almost always covered with dew in the spring making decks with worn or ineffective non-skid even more slippery.

Mast work aloft requires special attention to safety. Whether you are using climbing gear or a bosun’s chair, you want to have a secondary belay in case something goes wrong with the first. In the blog post “Going Aloft Safely” (July 29, 2015), we share important tips on going aloft safety from renowned rigger Brion Toss.

After falls, chemical accidents are among the most common. I’ve suffered a few myself, including chemical burns from some extremely potent solvents in a can of Venezuelan bottom paint. Whenever you are working with a potentially harmful chemical product, be sure to review the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), also called a Safety Data Sheet (SDS), available online via the maker’s website or the EPA. Last year, we showed how to access and interpret these reports so you can stay safe (see “How to Make Sense of Material Safety Data,” July 2017).

The other big hazard posed by boatyard chemicals are their toxic fumes. Hazardous vapors in enclosed spaces can be particularly dangerous. We recently reported on these risks and how to avoid them in our report on respirators (see “Best Respirators for the Boatyard,” PS September 2017).

Often, many of the bigger projects are saved for dockside, where shorepower service comes into play. This month’s PS Advisor highlights our past reports on shorepower safety.

Getting power to your boat at the mooring introduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from generator fumes. In some accidents involving CO poisoning, the responsible generator was located outside (or even on another boat) but the exhaust was positioned near a hatch or inlet. We looked at carbon monoxide monitors in December 2005. Product lines in this closely regulated category have not changed greatly since 2005, so much of the information is still very useful.

Most of the injuries that happen each spring in the boatyard can be avoided with common sense precautions. One of the simplest things you can do to avoid injury is to be patient. Even the careful sailor can get hurt if they’re in a hurry. No one wants the rush to get out of the boatyard to lead to the emergency room.

Comments (5)

It's amazing how quickly one's life can change when they don't have their mind on what they are doing, think it can't happen to them, just plain lazy, or in a hurry.

Posted by: k23 | May 1, 2018 11:45 AM    Report this comment

If you think safety gear is expensive, try having an accident.

Re your picture of the person painting a hull; great goggles, respirator and coveralls; feeble-looking gloves though. Try Harbor Freight, they have a good range.

Posted by: Bruce Braithwaite | April 30, 2018 7:40 AM    Report this comment

I will take Martin's sentiments a step further - ban the word "accident" which implies an event that could not be foreseen or prevented. Before you blast me with dictionary references, think about the wire in the eye mentioned in the article. This is a classic example of a potentially tragic event that was CAUSED by the victim's failure to observe safe practices. The injury was totally foreseeable and preventable.

Posted by: Paul Thorpe | April 29, 2018 6:24 PM    Report this comment

We seem to live in an age where some choose to take offense at the most innocuous and innocent use of language. I reject that, favouring tolerance, understanding of intent and well-meant communication. IMHO it is preferable to add something positive to an internet post rather than take something away.

I'd mention that writer Darrell Nicholson's model is wearing a pristine paintsuit straight out of the packet - or he irons his own before each use.

And following my own 'preference', I know many of us work on our boats alone, but it is surely worth the effort to encourage the practice of 'buddy-buddy' with one's neighbours, and not leave it to chance when something unexpected goes wrong - such as a TIA/stroke.

Posted by: oldbilbo | April 29, 2018 11:10 AM    Report this comment

I take some offense at the statement "Most of the injuries that happen each spring in the boatyard can be avoided with common sense precautions." I am union millwright, and we would never accept preventing most injuries, all injuries are very preventable with proper planning and education. Maybe an article on planning work to be safe could be in the future. Being safe isn't always the easiest or most comfortable, but better than being blind or dead.

Posted by: Martin | April 16, 2018 12:36 PM    Report this comment

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